County Implements Mass Alert System

Los Angeles County officials today announced the implementation of an emergency mass notification system to alert residents and businesses by phone, text, and e-mail of emergencies in their area.

Called Alert LA County, the system will allow the Sheriff’s Emergency Communications Center to activate local and regional alerts by drawing the boundaries of the area to be notified on a computer map. Recorded and written alerts will provide information on the nature of the emergency and necessary actions, such as evacuations.

The system is so precise it will allow the exclusion of a single home, useful in situations involving hostages or crimes in progress.

The County’s 7.1 million land-line phone numbers are programmed into the mass notification system, but the public must register Voice over IP lines, cell phones and e-mail addresses. Registration of this information can be done on the County’s website. Each telephone number and e-mail can be associated with only one street address.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Knabe said the system was tested in areas of each of the five supervisorial districts on May 18, and the results were impressive. Tests were conducted in South Whittier (First District), Ladera Heights (Second), Topanga Canyon (Third), a portion of Lakewood (Fourth), and The Meadows and Chaney Trail (Fifth).

The test included approximately 15,000 phone numbers, and a review was conducted to determine the number of calls that were completed and the disposition of each call, whether there was a live answer, answering machine, or busy. The test results were validated by calling a small sampling of those receiving the calls and getting their feedback.

If a call is picked up by an answering machine when an alert is being issued, a recorded message will be left. If the number is busy or does not answer, the number will be redialed twice. The system has the ability to detect and communicate with telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTY/TDD).

The County previously had no consistent way to contact residents and businesses in case of regional or local emergencies, so the new system will assist in making the communities safer, said Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas.